A question about the term "Iyer"

Alvappillai Veluppillai Velu at RELHIST.UU.SE
Sat May 16 09:58:14 UTC 1998

I am of opinion that the word aiyar in this TolkAppiyam sUtra means elders
and not necessarily Brahmins.

>At 02:33 PM 5/15/98 PDT, you wrote:
>>I would like to know as to what is the approx time period since which
>>the word "aiyar" has been used to refer to a Tamil speaking Smartha
>>  Earlier discussions by S.Palaniappan have been helpful in giving us
>>the etymology of "ai" related words and have proved that the word does
>>go back to classical Tamil..but since when has the word been
>>specifically used to denote a Smartha Brahmin? Likewise, does Tamil
>>literature ever use terms like "aiyAL" to refer to a smArta woman?
>        Dear Dr.Krishna,
>                The earliest reference to this word, that one
>        can think of occurs in the "TholkAppiyam".
>                In the "KaRpu iyal", verse #4 mentions it.
>        "Poyyum valzuvum thOnRiya pinnar,
>         Aiyar yAththanar karaNam enba"
>                This with reference to mariage regulations.
>                At one time the "KaLaviyal" form of love,
>        living together as husband and wife was in vogue.
>        Boy meets girl and they decide to become husband and
>        wife.
>                In this custom, a lot of deceit, and wrongs
>        crept in. So, after that the "aiyar" compiled the
>        set-rules. So say the ancient ones.
>                When TholkAppiyar says that someone else has
>        already said so, it would naturally mean that it was
>        said before his time. And the institution of the
>        karaNam's by the aiyar's was even earlier than the
>        saying was done. It could mean Brahmins in general.
>        But whether they are Smarthas are nor not, or perhaps
>        the Siva Brahmins or SivAchAryas and DhIkshithars,
>        I would'nt venture to pin-point. This calls in
>        a lot of other variables, like the date of TholkAppiyam,
>        the date of Adhi Sankara, etc.
>                In the epigrapical records , don't remember
>        any Brahmin being addressed as "aiyar" On the other
>        hand, they are known by epithets like "BrammAdhi rAjan"
>        "BrammarAyan", "Kiramaviththan". Kiramaviththan would
>        be the indicating a Brahmin well-versed with Krama-pAta
>        of VEdhic recital. These could mean Smarthas, especially
>        since these names are generally found after AdhiSankara's
>        influence.
>                But I have seen later palmyra records
>        where  Smarthas are addressed as aiyar, ganapaadi,
>        sAstri, and as Sarma.
>                There is a curious useage for this word "aiyar"
>        in the Periya PuraNam.
>                NandhanAr is one of the 63 nAyanmAr devotees
>        and he happened to be a Dalit.
>                In the Periya PuraNam, he is addressed as "aiyar".
>                Never heard of feminine gender of aiyar being
>        addressed as aiyaL. [Pssst..normally we call them
>        as "aiyarAththu mAmi" or simply "ammAmi":-)]
>        Regards
>        Jayabarathi
>>  All replies will be appreciated.
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